Thursday, May 30, 2013

Goodbye, Community Garden

IMG_1154a
DeWees #43 in its award-winning glory, July 2010

As gang violence continues to permeate the area near my old community garden / City Farm (DeWees City Park, North Baltimore), I decided it was time to go.  Oh, I wrote a letter.  Of course I did.  And it's below.  But actually leaving was a lot less ceremonious.

I made two trips to the garden to grab my perennial plants, so carefully tended over the last three years (and award winning in two of those three), and dumped them into used plant pots from a bulk nursery.  I pulled all my irrigation line and let them sail into a bucket.  I put them quickly into my truck.  I left my old shovel at the gate.  And I left.

It's frustrating and sad that basic legal activities like gardening in a city park in broad daylight are no longer safe from interference by hoodlums.  It's also sad that almost no upstanding citizen in this city is allowed to carry a weapon, either openly or concealed.  Oh, of course, "long gun open carry" is legal, but lawyers assure us that anyone carrying a long gun in public will get charged with disturbing the peace.  Ergo, there is no right to protect yourself in public.  Meanwhile,  a murder is committed almost every day, and in the majority of cases, no one is ever brought to trial.

Luckily, as I've written here recently (please read my article "Of Gun Control and Garden Beds), we are blessed with new sunshine from recently downed trees, and we can now grow our own food successfully at home.   It seems like an unlikely coincidence that such a thing would happen at the same time that the City Farm site was becoming a danger for my family and I.  Doesn't it?

Here's the letter I wrote to the City Farm coordinator.  Her response was very polite and apologetic, and she vowed to send the letter onward, as will I.  Her job is a tough one, and she's making a real effort to turn some bad community situations into green lots where people can grow food and enjoy civil fellowship with one another - something that is sorely needed in this City.


City Farm Gardens Coordinator
Department of Parks and Recreation
City of Baltimore                                                                                                                                      May 15, 2013

Dear Ms. M,
It is with disappointment that I must withdraw from membership and participation in the DeWees City Farm.  I do not request a refund, but I do request that my plot (details attached) be reassigned to another gardener ASAP.  This is my fourth year at the site, and the gardeners, City Rec and Parks staff, and volunteer leaders have been perfect. 

I spent a lot of time at DeWees, and it paid off, not only with harvest but when I collected the "Most Beautiful Garden" award in both 2010 and 2011.   However, several times over the last year, I have noticed a downturn in the safety of the community, culminating with multiple threats of violence made against me by neighborhood individuals not involved with the City Farm program, with repeated news reports of significant gang violence and murder less than one block from the park, and with a murder two weeks ago, approximately two blocks from the park. 

I originally drafted this letter with individual, detailed accounts of the threats made against me by school age children, on school days, on multiple occasions, but the recent murder near the edge of the park (April 30), along with the continued gang violence on the other side of the park associated with the Black Guerrilla Family pretty much speaks for itself.

Starting in 2012, and throughout the course of Summer 2013, I saw dozens of illegal dirt bikes, several police chases, frequent (single) gun shots, and open air drug dealing right inside of DeWees Park or right in front of it, on Woodbourne Avenue.  Gardeners were advised to leave significantly before dark, since obviously the City cannot protect citizens on City property for reasons that someday should be explained to someone.  

This is a really sad statement about life in Baltimore, and the security provided (or afforded) to citizens while they are engaged in legal activities on City property, where there should not be a security threat on any type of regular basis.  The City Farm program is worthwhile and attempts to engage citizens of all ages and all walks of life in the production of food and the "stewardship of life" so to speak.  There are hundreds of scientific studies that document the benefits of gardening to youth, men and women in crisis, victims of violence, prior violent offenders, people with terminal illnesses, and our seniors.  

The City Farm program attempts to provide an opportunity for these positive, potentially life changing experiences in neighborhoods throughout Baltimore.  As a conservationist, taxpayer, City resident for 15 years, City homeowner for 9 years, and father, I am extraordinarily disappointed in the City's inability to provide safe places for these important community activities to occur.   I don't know what it will take to change this scenario, but I promise that I won't be there to see it.  We'll garden at home from now on.   Good luck with the City Farm program.

DeWees #43 when I took it over in March, 2010. 

8 comments:

The Reverend Fowl ™ said...

Oops! "City Garden" ...sort of an oxymoron.

The Reverend Fowl ™ said...

Sorry, I meant Whoops-a-daisy...

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